A registry to prevent crime, not domestic violence

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We suspected it and now it is confirmed. The Conservatives don't think domestic violence is a crime.

MP Candace Hoeppner said as much on CBC Radio, no less, in Toronto last week. At the tail-end of her long, failed crusade against the long-gun registry, she distinguished use of the registry in domestic violence from fighting crime.

She said: "if the only defence of it [the gun registry] right now is domestic violence" then that means "nobody is saying that it [the registry] stops crime anymore." It's hard to interpret that any other way than it expressing the thought that domestic violence is not a crime.

Conservatives appear to think preventing suicides is a bit of a waste of time too. Apparently, the only lives the gun registry is worth saving are those that are caused by "criminal" activity. Or, as Hoeppner puts it: "I'm kind of watching with interest the pro argument that's being made. It doesn't even have to do with stopping crime in the sense of criminal activity. It has to do with domestic violence and suicide."

So, as this reasoning would appear to suggest: if someone wants to go ahead and kill themselves, fine -- it ain't a crime is it? And the gun registry is supposed to be there to prevent crimes, like duh. In this argument, Ms Hoeppner appears to be working with a different definition of crime on behalf of her Conservative colleagues. A definition that defies the Criminal Code of Canada that says a murder is a murder no matter who commits it. One that says when a woman is killed by her husband it's not a crime, but if she's killed by a stranger on the street, it is a crime. A definition that in a nutshell that diminishes the nature and impact of a husband killing his wife, because a man's home is his castle.

Or perhaps Hoeppner isn't aware that most murders are not committed by strangers. The fact is, women are more often than not murdered by the intimate males in their lives. In the seven-year period from 2000 to 2006, more than 500 women in Canada were shot, stabbed, strangled or beaten to death by the intimate males in their lives. To provide perspective on these figures: 101 Canadian soldiers and police officers were killed here at home and in Afghanistan during the same period (Figures are from The War on Women: Elly Amour, Jane Hurshman and Criminal Violence in Canadian Homes, by Brian Vallée.)

In Hoeppner's view, it would appear that the gun registry is a dud because it doesn't prevent deaths cause by crime, you know, the Conservative's definition of a "real" crime. But for those of us who are an uneducated lot who call a tragedy a tragedy no matter how it occurs, the gun registry really does seem to have something going for it. Gun deaths have dropped by a third since implementation. And for those even less uneducated of us who think that a murder is a crime -- whether it happens on the street or behind closed doors, it is great value. Police use this tool more than 13,000 times a day. There is a reason for that. That's because unlike Hoeppner, police treat an attempted murder as a crime -- where it happens or by whom and to whom doesn't matter. But, then again, the police and the Conservatives haven't been agreeing on much lately.

"Uneducated" policemen, who wouldn't know a crime if it hit them, know that a woman is 12 times more likely to be murdered if a gun is involved in domestic violence. They know that they need to remove a gun from someone who is beating up another person. They know if they remove a gun from a premises where a woman and or her children are at risk, they might save their lives. There is a reason for that: statistics from the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee found firearms to be present in 47 per cent of domestic homicides in 2007. They also know that 88 per cent of women shot in domestic violence are shot by a long gun. If police know a registered long gun is on the premises and someone is at risk, it needs to be removed. Guns can kill, period.

At $4 million a year, the gun registry costs two times the price tag of the G8/G20 Fake Lake pavillion. Or if you really want to knuckle down to it -- it costs 10 cents per Canadian per year to operate. Better still, it costs nothing to register a gun and is a simple on-line "operation" (so it won't hurt a bit) that takes no longer than booking a hotel. So let's all pry those two nickels from our cold, cold hands and get on with the business of protecting public safety.

Claire Tremblay is the Co-ordinator of the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights.

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